Riverford Organic Franchise

Back to his Roots with Riverford Organic Franchise

2nd September 2011

James Negus took over a struggling Riverford Organic franchise territory a year ago

James Negus took over a struggling Riverford Organic franchise territory a year ago. In this short time he has turned the business around, increasing customer engagement, driving sales and boosting business revenues by 50 percent.

Today the former chef and son of an organic farmer – also a supplier to Riverford – believes that buying a business in need of attention has its advantages.

Riverford Organic Vegetables Franchisee - organic products delivery franchiseSays James: “I found out about the Riverford opportunity through the family business. My family are part of a cooperative working for Sacrewell – a sister farm of Riverford in Cambridgeshire – and have been farming for around 40 years. When we sold our larger vegetable growing business fairly recently, we decided to retain the family farm, and began growing organic vegetables. Now our most varied output of crops is for Riverford. You certainly don’t have to come from a farming background to become a Riverford franchisee, and it doesn’t give you any clear advantage, but I’ve been privileged to see how the business works first hand. I believed I could make the Bury St. Edmunds territory more profitable than it was, which is why I decided to make an investment.

I was actually a Riverford customer in Wiltshire before my family got involved with the company, so becoming a franchisee has been an interesting twist of fate. I’ve always had a love of food, and have worked as a chef in several restaurants, so it’s been good to get back in touch with fresh produce. I also get to bring my culinary skills to the table, offering tips to people about cooking, and giving advice on recipes that will help them make the most of their veg boxes.

The freshness formula

As a former chef and keen cook, food quality is everything to me, and Riverford’s food is the freshest. Vegetables picked in the UK on a Wednesday are boxed by Thursday, and delivered on Friday. This contrasts with supermarkets where vegetables can be left in cold storage for over a week, losing flavour.

Riverford’s attention to detail in areas like this makes me enthusiastic about the brand. However, it’s still vital for franchisees to work hard on marketing at the local level to increase turnover and profit. Which is where I’ve been focusing most of my efforts.

Sampling success

One of the marketing drives I’m engaging in at the moment is an email campaign promoting a free taster box for existing customers’ family and friends. It’s a great referral strategy, and excellent for acquiring new business. People who want to try a taster box get five pieces of free veg. About a week after their delivery, I contact them to see if they’d like to take a regular order.

Another Riverford franchisee, Nick Moynihan, in Essex did the same thing, since the start of 2011 his deliveries have increased by 53%, and new customers are up 141%, which is an outstanding conversion rate! What this demonstrates to me is that the harder and smarter you work, and the more selective your marketing is, the better your returns will be.

Hard work pays dividends

At the moment, I’m in the office on Monday taking care of the administrative side of the business, and then I’m out on the road four days a week, covering around 500 miles. When I’m making deliveries I get to the hub, where the produce is delivered, by 6.30am. Then I’m on the road by 7.30am and finish between 4 and 6pm. As well as this, I attend as many weekend shows as I can, particularly in summer, to promote Riverford locally and sign up new customers.

You have to work harder when you start because you need to keep costs down and get box numbers up before you can think about taking on additional staff. I’m now reaching the point where I’m considering taking on a new driver to free up some of my time.

Ample turnover

Since I took on Riverford in Bury St. Edmunds a year ago, it’s been rewarding to see my efforts are paying off with business increasing. My customer base has gone up from 130 to 220 customers. My personal target was to double the number of deliveries by the end of this year, so with just 40 more customers to go, I’m well on my way to hitting that figure. But it hasn’t only been about increasing customer numbers; increasing average customer spend has also been a key part of my strategy.

At the end of last year, the average spend was just over £18 a week. Now it’s more than £20. It doesn’t sound like a massive increase, but when you’re making four or five hundred deliveries, it can add thousands of pounds to your balance sheet. I’ve achieved this mainly by working on customer engagement, such as†letting them know when something new is in, and simply by staying in touch. For example, we recently had some excellent organic mozzarella in from Laverstoke Park, which I informed my customers about. It didn’t take much effort, and there was a great response, which added around three pounds to 20 or 30 orders.

A network of support

One of the best things about being a Riverford franchisee is that, when I need advice or support, I can turn to the other franchisees in the network. Some of them are very switched on and have much more experience than me, so it’s great to hear about the marketing initiatives that have worked for them. Being proactive and using the franchise network as a resource ensures that I learn from other people’s mistakes, and not just my own, which helps me to make the most of my time and maximise the potential of this growing business.

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Riverford Organic Franchise

Further Information

Franchise Information

BFA Membership Status
UK Years Established
13 years
Current UK Coverage
Franchisee Support Staff
Personal Investment Req.
Total Startup Cost
Home-based business location Home-based business location
Business to consumer services Business to consumer services
Franchisee operates individually Franchisee operates individually

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